Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


Lego My Ego

letto-egoI have a list of a thousand things–all good things–I want to do before I die. Sometimes I think I have to cram them all into one month.

When my activities start to overlap, things get pushed around: my priorities out of order, my finances out of line, my emotions out of control, and my back, well, just out.

I have a ready list of excuses too.

  • If I don’t do this, no one else will.
  • They’re counting on me.
  • It’s all part of marketing my book.
  • But I want to.
  • I’m not getting any younger. [Tell me, is anyone?]

Recently, when my serenity was crowded out by busyness, I had a hard time hearing God’s voice. And I needed to. [Duh.] So I prayed for the Lord to speak loud enough for me to hear over the din of my daily activities. He gave me this personalized paraphrase of 1 Kings 19:11-14 instead.

Go stand over there and be quiet. Don’t check your email or Facebook and stay away from Pinterest. Wait for God to speak.

A reader posted a 5-star Amazon review and bolstered my hopes before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the Amazon review; after the review, a great idea for another writers’ event, but God wasn’t in the event; and after the great idea, positive comments on a blog, but God wasn’t in the comments or the blog; and after the positive comments, a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Clarice heard the quiet voice, she muffled her face with her great lap blanket, went to the mouth of her writing cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Clarice, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Clarice said it again, “I’ve been writing my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of God have turned toward the secular market, destroyed your places of Christian publication, and murdered the written word. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”

egoOh, the ego of it all! When I feel like I’m not able to give up some of my activities, writing or otherwise, because there is no one who can possibly replace me, that’s when I know I’m in trouble. OVERBLOWN EGO TROUBLE.

To make it right, I need to let go of my ego and refresh my soul.  So now I’m waiting– really waiting– to hear the Lord’s gentle whisper.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)


Dating and the Half-Blood Prince

Nine years ago, I remarried after being widowed for eight years. I found a great guy who understands meyet, amazingly, has never tried to run off.

That I know of.

Because I found happiness again, single women often ask me how I met my husband. As if how I met David would work the same way for them.

My advice to them is to pray and wait. Do things you enjoy, learn something new, help someone less fortunate, and spend time with your family and friends. If God has someone for you, He is more than able to bring you two together—without your help.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~ Proverbs 27-13-14 (NIV)

Why am I qualified to give this advice? Because I did everything wrong.

Most of my seeking was on faith-based, online dating sites. Though I found a number of men in my age-bracket, our other brackets didn’t line up. I know “wacko” isn’t a nice word, but let’s just say, I had family and friends who would’ve chased these men off with a stick.hoFleischmannRapidRiseYeast (2)

  • The man who took turns doing jail time with his fourth wife on domestic abuse charges. He told me, “Don’t worry, we’re getting a divorce.”
  • The man who refused to date a woman who had ever had a yeast infection.
  • The man who lived in the woods while waiting on the Lord to give him a trailer.
  • The man who lived in a trailer while waiting on the Lord for the right time to downsize.

To be clear, I didn’t date many men at all during those years. Sometimes just reading their profiles was enough (or should have been). However, I did communicate with a number of them via the websites, email, or phone.

I often asked myself why. Why did I respond to every inquiry? Why did I continue after the initial exchange? Why did I agree to speak by phone?

The answer is complicated. Since I was lonely, bored, and insecure, empathy played a big part. I felt bad for them. I didn’t want to be mean or rude and make them feel worse. Sometimes it was the writer in me, rubbernecking from a safe distance. Their lives were so different from mine; I wanted to get up close, but not too personal.

I knew my curiosity wasn’t healthy. It got the best of me the night I agreed to meet one of the online bachelors at a Borders bookstore. I knew we weren’t a good fit the moment I saw him. Yet fascination drew me in. And there was the whole not wanting to be mean thing.

We ordered coffee and found a table. He sat facing the window; I sat facing him and the store. Since my interest had peaked prior to the date, when he told me that he and his older brother lived with their mother [Did I mention they were in their fifties?], what little interest that remained waned.

Trying to salvage the conversation, I asked, “So what do you do for a living?”

His face lit up. “I mow lawns. My brother has a paper route.” [Did I mention they were in their fifties?]

tumblr_kzb0vfjtHR1qbrupjo1_400 (2)Pretending to pay attention is a lot like lying. And I’m not good at it; I felt guilty. So when an eerie pale-faced, bald man dressed in black slithered through my peripheral vision, I thought I was being chastised.

I recovered my composure and changed the subject. Since his profile had been on a Christian website, I asked, “So what church do you attend?”

“We attended a great church in New Jersey, but we haven’t found one we like here yet.”

“Oh. How long have you lived here?”

“Eighteen years.”

I tried to morph my “you’re kidding me” face into a calm “I see” expression. My disingenuous reaction only stirred up an even more ominous-looking apparition, which skulked back and forth behind my date’s chair.

I remember thinking, “If I keep my eyes straight ahead and try to be kind and truthful, maybe the hallucinations will go away.”half-blood

It didn’t work. I started seeing witch hats and broomsticks between the books shelves. And it was June.

But when Harry Potter himself sat down nearby for a chai latte with Professor Dumbledore, I had to ask my date if he saw them, too.

“Sure. J.K. Rowling’s latest book. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out today. Most of the staff and customers are in costume.”

I scanned my date for the umpteenth time. Was he dressed up, too? Did I dare ask?  I considered his two possible answers. Neither would brighten our future.        

The very next day I surrendered my will and my search and deleted all my online dating accounts. As I was doing one final click-through, Yahoo Personals popped up–a site I had not joined. Or had I? I did a quick look to be sure.

And—yahoo!—I found David.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

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Christmas Giving All Year Round: Slavery vs. Freedom

ChristmasGivingIt’s the Christmas season. I want to talk about giving—perhaps not in the way you want to hear.

As a new Christian 34 years ago, I learned about the principle of paying my tithe (10%). Although I didn’t quite understanding how this principle worked, I don’t think I spent too much time whining about it. I just did it.

You see, I’m a list-maker, you know, one of those people who creates lists for everything. I had my “Things-To-Do-Now-That-I’m-A- Christian-List.” I think it went something like this:

    1. Read the Bible, at least once, so I know what it’s about.
    2. Stop smoking.
    3. Pray in tongues.
    4. Find out what tongues is.
    5. Be a perfect wife.
    6. Get husband saved.
    7. Be nice to everyone I know.
    8. Then get them all saved.
    9. Lose weight and exercise.
    10. Tithe.

When I reviewed my new list, I saw that I was in trouble. Since we list-makers get our thrills from crossing items off our lists once they are completed, compared to the other items, tithing began to look like the easiest. You might say it was my first real victory in my Christian walk – even if by default. (It took me five years to quit smoking.)

Yet, despite my obedience in my giving, I continued to worry about money. I’d think of how little or how much I had; how and how not to spend it; how and how not my husband should spend it; and where it would come from and how I would get more. I’d sit mulling over the household bills, adding and re-adding, then fretting and wringing my hands. I was as much a slave to my will and to my fears as I was to money.

A few years later, when the Lord thought I was ready spiritually, he showed me that my tithing had become a legalistic ritual, a ritual to which I was in bondage. Yes, I was being obedient to the law, but I hadn’t surrendered my will with that obedience. I was giving out of fear and doubt rather than trust and love.

God We TrustGalatians 5:1 says: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

I was tired of being a slave. I prayed to the Lord as in Psalm 118:5-6: “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid.”

Gradually, I began to surrender my control over my finances. Paying my tithe and giving my offerings became exciting to me again. It also became more about my relationship with the Lord than an obligation.

My obedience to the biblical principles of giving opened the door to more of God’s grace. He showed me that this type of obedience was not always reflected in other areas of my life. By his mercy, he began changing me from the inside out. My desire to give to the Lord with abandon grew, not only with my tithes and my offerings, but with my will.

Psalm 119:32 speaks of the type of obedience I want to exhibit: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.”

Just so you know, paying my tithe and giving my offerings has very little to do with my church membership responsibilities or any denominational by-laws or doctrine – or even the IRS. It’s personal — just between God and me. And I love that about it now. And this love of giving has spread to other areas of my giving.

How about you? During this season of giving, I think it’s always a good idea to check our attitude.

Here’s a list to check off. 🙂

  1. Do we remember to give to those in need?
  2. Are we giving out of obligation?
  3. Are we giving so others will see us?
  4. Is our heart stingy or generous?
  5. Are we overspending to impress?
  6. Do we give to get something in return?
  7. Do we receive with gratefulness?
  8. Do we fit the person to an odd gift we have hanging around, or do we tailor the gift to the person?

Join Me in Prayer: Lord, please help us to appropriate the freedom you have given us through your Son Jesus Christ. Let our giving serve as a symbol of that freedom. Help us to release our anxieties and fears, relinquish our control and open our arms and our hearts in surrender to you. Show us how to give to you and to others with abandon! Then fill our souls with a joy and peace that money cannot buy. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.